If you’re visiting the south-east of the United Kingdom then one place you should check out on your journey is Brighton. Formerly known as the city of Brighton and Hove, it is located on the south coast between the towns of Worthing and Eastbourne and was awarded city status in 2000 when Brighton and Hove merged to become a city.
Being a very cosmopolitan city, Brighton is a fun place and is also known as ‘London by the sea’. The city is known for its lively beachfront (in the summer months), the amusements along its famous pier and for unofficially being the gay capital of the UK. If you’re in the south of England then no doubt you’ll also be visiting the capital, London. Be sure to check out my article, A Local’s Guide To London for all the ebst places to visit.
One of the main attractions that are held annually is the pink parade, a week-end carnival that is promoted by gay rights and attracts a huge following from around the world. If you had to compare Brighton to a US city then it would probably be San Francisco.
Here are some of the top attractions you should see if you’re planning a visit to Brighton.
Brighton Palace Pier is one of the biggest attractions in Brighton. First used as a landing platform to ferry travellers back and forth to France in 1823, the Palace Pier transformed into an amusement pier in 1899 and has been a place of entertainment ever since.
The pier is free to enter, but you will need to pay for the attractions. On the pier, you can find arcade machines, bumper cars, a helter-skelter, trampolines, a carousel, a rollercoaster and a few bars and places to eat. It’s a great place to take the kids for a few hours. At the extreme end of the pier on a separate platform is the availability to hire rod and bait for anyone wanting to experience angling, again another example of trying to offer facilities to all.
Tip: Buy some of the doughnuts that are freshly made to order on the pier. The crepes are also really good! And the candy floss is always a sure fire winner with the kids.
For more info, visit: brightonpier.co.uk
Although I have visited the seafront at Brighton many times before, I didn’t know it has been voted in the top 10 of beachfront city break destinations in the world until I wrote this article! While I wouldn’t rush there any time between October and March, Brighton beach and seafront are definitely worth visiting during the more fair weathered months.
Brighton is well served with hotels, guest houses and caravan parks. The beachfront has a vast choice of hotels ranging from the five star Grand to very adequate and more reasonably priced bed and breakfast. In the height of summer Brighton beach gets very busy with locals, tourists and other UK residents from neighbouring towns.
On the beach there are lots of activities to get involved in if you’re feeling active, including water sports, volleyball, Frisbee, and crazy golf. If you feel like relaxing and want to take it easy then you can grab a deck chair which is available to hire for a small charge and just kick back with a beer, ice-cream or a selection of food, including the UK’s most famous dish, fish and chips.
Although there are several fish and chips on the seafront, it’s not necessarily the best place to experience the real thing. If you want to try really good fish and chips, the way they’re supposed to be, and then check out this guide to fish and chips in Brighton.
At night time in the summer the beachfront is transformed into an array of promenade lighting, attracting a wide audience of people of all ages enjoying the various bars, casinos and night clubs with many of the clubs staying open most of the night.
Brighton beach is really easy to find. The Brighton palace pier is at its centre with the pebbly beach extending for approximately a mile either side. Originally there were two piers in Brighton but due to storm damage and costs of repair the east pier has collapsed with the remains of rusted supports barely visible above the water line.
Tip: The stretch of beach to the west of the Pier is usually busier due to the easier car parking facilities. Be warned however as the council has a clean air policy which tries to deter cars in the city, by excessive car parking charges so if you’re visiting the UK and have a hire car, better leave it at your hotel and get around by foot, bus or taxi.
Looking like something that belongs in India, the Royal Pavilion is just one of many examples of Brighton’s eccentricity.
Known to the locals as ‘The Taj Mahal’, the Brighton Pavilion was built over 200 years ago by the eccentric King George IV to be used as his ‘pleasure palace’. King George IV (formerly the Prince Regent), particularly loved the various cultures of Asia and therefore, built the Royal Pavilion with Indian architecture on the outside and Chinese decor on the inside.
Today the Palace is a museum and well worth a visit to view the stunning banqueting halls, music rooms and royal bedrooms that have been preserved and transports the visitor back in time to appreciate the splendour of the time.
The North and South Laines of Brighton (yes I did spell laines correctly) is an old network of narrow lanes full of a variety of independent boutique shops, restaurants, cafes and market stands. If you want to do a bit of shopping and are after something a bit different, then the Laines is a great place to go.
Besides the shopping, the Laines are great for an afternoon stroll to wander around the narrow passageways to emerge suddenly into a square surrounded by restaurants and coffee shops and bars. It seems to be a relaxed national pastime to sit and people watch while sipping coffee to establish the origins of the visitors as they explore this tranquil setting.
Brighton Flea Market
If strange and unusual antiques and curios are your thing then you may want to visit Brighton Flea Market. Located on Upper St James’s Street, the market is easy to find and about 5 minutes in a taxi from the centre of the city.
The market is open seven days a week between 9am-5pm. Regular attendees displaying their wares are local dealers as well as out of town sellers. This is the place to purchase an unusual object or a souvenir to take home to remind you of your visit. Do not be embarrassed to negotiate on price. Who knows, your purchase will seem even sweeter if you have got a good bargain!
Aquarium – Sea Life Brighton
First opening its doors to the public in 1872, Sea Life Brighton is set in an impressive Victorian building and houses a wide variety of sea life. One of the best attractions is the Auditorium and ocean tunnel, which enables you to walk through an impressive glass tunnel surrounded by sharks, sea turtles, eels, sting rays and all kinds of exotic fish.
Sea Life Brighton is really easy to find, being located a short distance from the famous Brighton Pier. On leaving the Pier, cross the road to Marine Parade on your right which will lead to a short flight of steps that take you below ground to the entrance.
This is a great place to bring the kids and even has a ‘behind the scenes’ tour if you book in advance. The reinforced glass tunnel gives the visitor the feeling of being on the sea bed. I felt myself duck as the shadowy shape of a large shark seeming grazing my head as it silently swam past.
Entry tickets vary depending on the time of year you are visiting and whether you are an adult, child or OAP. There are also concessions for groups so check their website for prices.
For more info, go to; visitsealife.com
Brighton Marina is located slightly out of the main town towards the east. At the marina you can find a working harbour and a variety of shops, restaurants and cafes. The Marina is made up over an area in excess of 120 acres. A main harbour, along with private moorings, for owners who are lucky enough to own a villa or apartment. The venture has been so successful that planning permission has now been granted to build underground car parking with tower block apartments above to create the required residences.
If you’re into boats then the marina is a nice place to visit during an afternoon if the weather’s nice. The variety of restaurants and pubs offer a pleasant retreat for an intimate evening.
If you are driving then there are car parks for visitors at the marina. In fact visitors to Brighton city centre may find it beneficial to park in the Marina and get a cab into town. If you’re on foot then your best bet would be to take the No7 bus from Brighton train station to the marina.
A fairly new attraction in Brighton is the i360, which opened in the summer of 2016. Owned and operated by one of the UK’s largest airlines, British Airways, the i360 is a 162m (532ft) observation tower. The viewing pod, which ascends the 162m cylindrical structure, offers 360 degree views of Brighton, the English Channel to the south and the South Downs when looking to the north.
If you’re lucky to visit on a clear day then you can see the Isle of White, which is 47 miles away to the west. When looking to the east you can see one of England’s most famous cliffs, Beachy Head, around 17 miles away, close to the neighbouring town of Eastbourne.
Once in the viewing pod you have the room to stroll around to take in the scenery from every angle. There is a bar available so you can celebrate an occasion with a glass of champagne or your other favourite tipple as you take in the sights.
The i360 is located on the beach front at the westerly end of Brighton, close to the border of Hove. Once you’re on the coast, look to the west and you can’t miss it!
Flights run every 30 minutes on each hour and half hour and lasts about 25 minutes. Tickets are £16 for adults and £8 for children. However, if you book online then you can get a discount.
To book a ticket, go to britishairwaysi360.com
If horse racing is your thing then you may want to check out Brighton racecourse. Located on White hawk Hill, it’s less than 10 minutes in a taxi from Brighton town centre. The course is situated high on the South Downs and offers spectacular views towards the sea and over the city.
Brighton Racecourse organise events throughout the year. These range from Fetes, car boot sales, antique fairs as well as individual special events. The horse racing mainly takes place during spring and summer as the course is designed for flat racing rather than steeple chase.
Take a look at their website to see what’s on when you’re in town, here; brighton-racecourse.co.uk
For the nature lovers, Devil’s Dyke is worth a visit on a nice day. Located on the South Downs near Brighton and Hove, Devil’s Dyke is a picturesque V-shaped valley, 100m deep. Devil’s Dyke was one of the largest tourist attractions towards the end of the 19th and early part of the 20th century and is a great place to go for a walk or picnic when the sun is shining.
At the top of Devils Dyke is a solitary, but often busy pub serving food and drinks all day and evening. During the summer months you can often see the sky above Devils Dyke filled with paragliders, hang-gliders, kites and one or two hot air balloons.
If you’re on foot then take the No77 bus from Brighton Palace Pier. The journey should take you around 30 minutes.
If you are looking for peace and tranquillity, the Brighton area offers the beautiful South Downs and natural environment like the Devils Dyke. Places of interest abound with the sea shore, Pier, Marina and museums. Linked with this the variety of nightlife and eating establishments Brighton really is a place to visit.